Kansas had a huge second half comeback to defeat West Virginia in Morgantown for the first time since 2013, 71-66.
The game did not start well for Kansas, as the Jayhawks found themselves down 5-0 and Bill Self calling a timeout less than two minutes into the game. KU righted the ship for a few moments, taking a 9-7 lead on a Udoka Azubuike dunk, but that’s when West Virginia absolutely took over. The Mountaineers quickly built a 10-point lead, extending that to a 41-28 halftime advantage.
West Virginia continued dominating the Jayhawks well into the second half, holding a 47-33 lead with 15:13 to play. Kansas slowly chipped away, clearly having made some offensive adjustments at halftime. Instead of driving the ball (only to get blocked or mugged), KU finally began shooting jumpers.
West Virginia would re-establish a double digit lead at 55-43 with 8:57 to play, but a couple of Svi threes followed by a Devonte Graham trey brought the Jayhawks to within one point, 60-59, with 5:04 left. KU would take its first lead since 9-7 on pair of Svi Mykhailiuk free throws with 3:49 to go. West Virginia responded right away, but a Devonte Graham layup gave KU the lead right back. A dunk by Mitch Lightfoot with 46 seconds left gave Kansas a 3-point lead, West Virginia missed a three, and Malik Newman iced the game by hitting 1/2 free throws with 13 seconds left.
The Jayhawks trailed by as much as 16 in this game after struggling with West Virginia’s size and pressure in the first half. Bill Self clearly pushed the right buttons at halftime, as KU only had four turnovers in the second half, compared to 9 in the first half. Additionally, West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate had 5 blocks in the first half, none in the second. Kansas shot 12-32 (37.5%) from the floor in the first half, but 14-27 (51.8%) in the second.
Svi Mykhailiuk led all scorers with 17 points on 5-12 shooting, including 3-6 from behind the arc. 12 of Svi’s 17 points came in the final seven minutes. Svi also added in 5 assists.
Devonte Graham struggled in the first half, not hitting his first field goal until less than a minute before halftime, but finished with 16 points and 6 assists.
Kansas held WVU’s Jevon Carter to just 4-15 shooting from the floor. Esa Ahmad also struggled, scoring 15 points but turning the ball over 5 times.
Maybe this isn’t Bill Self’s softest team after all. I’ve seen a lot better teams than this melt in Morgantown, but these guys didn’t. They kept their composure (bogus first half technical not withstanding), made the proper adjustments, and came away with what could end up being one of the biggest wins in Bill Self’s tenure.
Kansas is now back on the inside track for the Big 12 title, as the Jayhawks remain tied for first place and are one of just three Big 12 teams with one conference loss (OU, TTU).
Up next, Kansas will host Baylor in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, Jan 20, at 5 PM Jayhawk time.